Thursday, January 29, 2015

Franco Serra Barbaresco, 2010

During Restaurant Week in Kalamazoo, MI, most downtown restaurants offer a special three-course meal for $25. My choice this year, as last, was Zazio's Italian Restaurant not only because of the high quality food but also for the excellent array of Italian wines, by the bottle and by the glass. In 2014, I had a glass of the excellent 2008 Franco Serra Barbaresco that was a perfect match for my braised beef entree. This year: braised beef again, this time with the 2010 Franco Serra Barbaresco. If you find a good thing, stick with it.

Dark cherries and roses, lots of roses. Dark licorice tones too, though not as prominent as in the 2008. Classic Nebbiolo traits. Less bold, more elegant than Barolo. Medium bodied with tannins that are barely noticeable but still there in large quantities. Gets better and better throughout the meal. 2010 was recognized as a top vintage in the Piedmont area of Italy, and I think this wine has at least 8 to 10 years of positive development ahead of it. Even at $14 a glass, it's a good value. And it sells retail for about $23--one of the best buys around.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Delas Saint Esprit Cotes du Rhone, 2009

A good Cotes du Rhone has no pretensions. It's a wine to drink, now or later, and enjoy with almost any meal you put on the table. Yet there is nothing at all simple about what the wine delivers in peppery, spicy fruit smells and flavors. For years, I have bought at least one or two cases of Cotes du Rhone every year, focusing on my favorites of the moment, which have included Grand Prieur, l'Espigouette, Vieux Chene, Guigal, Janasse, Perrin and, of course, Domaine Sainte-Anne (which is really more of a Cotes du Rhone Villages than a simple CDR).

I don't buy nearly as much Cotes du Rhone any longer because 1) the escalating price puts many of them outside my budget for an every day wine and 2) the traditional Cotes du Rhone that I love so much has, in many cases, been replaced by an oak-influenced international-styled wine. This Delas Saint Esprit is a notable exception.

Deep ruby. Probably a high percentage of Syrah in the blend. Subtle smells and flavors unfold as the wine warms from a cool cellar temperature. Peppery overtones plus black fruits and spice. Syrah-type pepper. Medium body and a satisfying peppery finish--subtle enough to make you come back for yet one more sip. Has the simplicity and the complexity of a good Cotes du Rhone.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Laurenz und Anna Sunny Gruner Veltliner, 2009

With an order from Ziingo, a new Asian carry out establishment started in Portage, MI by the owner of Chinn Chinn, I knew the food would be excellent and wanted a good wine to match up. Experience tells me Austrian Gruner would be a good choice. And it was.

Full yellow color. A mellow spiciness. Green apple, lime, flowers. Slightly sweet with a sunny disposition. (The label says this wine was named after the "sunny disposition" of the owner's daughter.) Has the zip (should I say, zing?) of a Sauvignon Blanc but with more body and ripe fruit.

Domaine Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2004

For my taste, this CDR Villages has reached a perfect stage for drinking. The red berry fruit is front and center, but secondary smells, flavors and textures are beginning to emerge. At this stage, it reminds me of a very good Pinot Noir.

Medium ruby/crimson. Grenache color dominates. Lovely ripe raspberries with lavender and spice. Medium bodied with lots of ripe flavors that coat the tongue from front to back. More subtle than the 2004 Sainte Anne Cotes du Rhone I had a couple of months ago and also more youthful fruit. Still a fruit-oriented wine but with delicacy and class. Even better the second night.

Acrobat Oregon Pinot Gris, 2013

This is a lower-priced offering from King Estate, maker of very good Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Wine & Spirits Magazine rated it a Best Buy, and Wine Enthusiast named it #36 among its best 100 wine buys of the year. For about $12 a bottle, it is a wine to seek out.

Deep yellow. Pinot Gris rather than Grigio in style. Apples, ripe pears, flowers and lemon. The Wine & Spirits reviewer tasted lemon cream richness and I agree. Good acidity to balance the ripe fruit. And will probably improve over the next year or two.

Domaine de Font-Sane Gigondas, 1998

When opened young, a good Gigondas can be breathtaking--a marriage of power and beauty. After a few years, though, these wines tend to shut down for awhile, and this Font-Sane was particularly nasty during that period, giving no indication that it would ever get back on track. But it did--big time.

Deep ruby/crimson with minimal browning. The fruit has re-emerged--strawberries, raspberries and spice. Mellow and mature. Medium bodied. The label says 14.5% alcohol, but the wine has cool rather than warm tones. Carries the alcohol nicely. If the wine has lost some of its youthful power, it has gained even more in mature beauty.

Franco Serra Barbera d'Alba, 2010

There aren't many wine bargains from the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Everyone now knows that the wines from this area--whether Barolo, Barbaresco or  Barbera--are top of the line. The Franco Serra wines are not particularly cheap, but they are incredible bargains. I had the excellent Barbaresco as a wine by the glass at Zazio's Italian Bistro in Kalamazoo last year and then bought a bottle for $23 at Bacchus. It will wait awhile in my cellar, but the $10 Barbera I bought at the same time is excellent for drinking any time.

Medium ruby. I just sampled some Montmorency dried cherries that I added to the salad, and this wine has precisely those intense, deep Montmorency smells and flavors. Also roses, smoke and dark earthy tones. Some have called this wine "rustic," but it's rustic in a very good way, imparting the best traditions of a great wine region. Excellent acidity; does a little dance on the tongue. Ripe fruit, vigorous acidity, Montmorency cherries on the finish. Clean and long. Wonderful.

The Franco Serra wines are no longer on the shelf at Bacchus, but the 2012  Barbera d'Alba is on sale for $9.99 at D&W in Kalamazoo. That is a true bargain.

Boskydel Leelanau Peninsula Soleil Blanc, 2008

Bernie Rink, the Leelanau Peninsula pioneer who founded Boskydel, told me that all of his wines are better with age, and so far I believe him. He also believes that Soleil Blanc, a French hybrid, is his best dry white, and I agree that it's very good, although I still prefer the Vignoles. None of the Boskydel wines are distributed very far from the winery near Lake Leelanau, but go to the unpretentious tasting shed at the winery, and you can buy a case of either wine for about $70--one of the best bargains anywhere.

In the days of predictable Chardonnays and Sauvignons, Soleil Blanc has a pleasingly unique personality. Bright yellow. Flowers, peaches and citrus. Fresh and lively for a seven-year-old white. And i t's still developing complexity and personality. Unfortunately, I'm reaching the bottom of the case I bought several years ago. I'll have to go back soon to stock up.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cameron Hughes Lot 266 Los Carneros Pinot Noir, 2009

When it comes to Pinot Noir, appellation is everything. At least, that's my view. Of course, Burgundy is the appellation, but I've never been able to afford the really good red Burgundies. Occasionally, I can find a good Bourgogne Rouge, but at that level I tend to prefer Pinots from California's North Coast--Anderson Valley, Russian River and Sonoma Coast. They are not cheap, either, but I have managed to get some good selections for a reasonable price at auction. Carneros, of course, is the Napa appellation for Pinot, and it has a long-standing reputation for producing good wines. That's why I bought this Cameron Hughes closeout.

Deep ruby. Lots of upfront pepper and spice. Also flowers and cranberries. Has a lot of what I like in North Coast Pinots. Rather full on the palate with that silky Pinot texture. Dark berry flavors and a ripe finish. Subtle complexity. Probably at its peak since it starts to show oxidized traits after being re-corked and sitting on the shelf for three days.

Rafael Palacios Louro do Bolo Valdeorras Godello, 2007

Eric Solomon brings in a number of very good Godello wines from Valdeorras in northern Spain. They are very good young, and they age well, as this wine has.

Deep lemon yellow color. Almonds on the nose as well as flowers, peaches and a twist of citrus. Actually, it's grapefruit, and there is more than a twist. Full bodied for a white with lively acidity. Minerals, stone fruit and almonds on the palate. No sign of oak aging. If you want the oak presence, try the As Sorte Godello from the same maker. It costs about twice as much, but I prefer this one.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Domaine Sainte-Anne Cotes du Rhone, 2005

Still holding on to some Sainte-Anne baby fat, this 2005 CDR seems to be on its way toward the beautiful maturity that the 2001 has attained. Deep ruby, youthful ripe fruit smells and flavors. Savory red fruits with some aromatic herbs and spices. Some beautiful minerality just beginning to form on the finish. I bought a couple of cases of this wine ($8.99 at the time); it will be fun to follow over the next five years or so. It is, by far, the most ageworthy Cotes du Rhone I have encountered.

Gaetano d'Aquino Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, 2013

We opened this bottle the night before the guests arrived for Christmas, then re-corked what was left. For the next week, it was hidden and forgotten at the back of the fridge behind Christmas leftovers. A re-corked half bottle more than a week old? I assumed it would be oxidized and undrinkable, but no. Still fresh and lively. Grapefruit tartness balanced against peachy ripeness. Quite enjoyable.

At $3+ a bottle at Trader Joe's, this has to be one of the world's best wine values. We buy a few bottles every time we visit a TJ store; the 2013 vintage is the best we have encountered.